The Holy Family As Ordinary People
By Raymond Gasu
On a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I visited a number of Holy places that reminded me of the life of the Holy Family made up of Jesus, the son, Mary, the mother and Joseph, the father.
Starting in Nazareth, I visited the Basilica of the Annunciation, a very large and beautiful Church built on top of a Grotto that marks the authentic place where the Angel appeared to Mary with the news that she was to become the mother of our Lord. Thanks to a strong and resounding “yes” from Mary, we have all now been saved by the sacrifice of the Son whom she bore. In a similar manner, Joseph, with the help of the Holy Spirit, accepted Mary as his wife.
There is quite a distance between Nazareth and Jerusalem and with no modern day form of transportation and with most places unbuilt over 2,000 years ago, I could imagine that it took many days and a lot of effort to travel around. Yet, the Holy Family, living just like any other human beings at the time, went about their lives doing ordinary things that most of us still do today. Mary, herself pregnant, went to visit Elizabeth in Ain Karim (a city of Judah) where the Church of Visitation is now situated. We are told that Mary stayed with and helped Elizabeth for about three months. At the foot of the hill on which the Church of Visitation is situated, there is a spring called Mary’s Spring, where Mary was said to have visited on daily basis to wash clothes and draw water. Many people still visit their pregnant relatives these days to offer help and support.
When the time came for Jesus to be born, Mary and Joseph did not have a place of their own in Bethlehem, where they visited for a census. Thus, Jesus was born in a manger, where the Church of Nativity now lies, a lowly birth of the Lord of Creation. This and the story of the Milk Grotto, which is located not far away from the Church of Nativity, a place where the Holy Family had a rest on their way to Egypt and that Mary’s breast milk fell on a rock while she was feeding the baby Jesus while on the run, remind us that Jesus and His family were refugees at a time in their lives. We still have refugees among us today.
Back in Nazareth and before the start of His public ministry, we are told Jesus, living with his parents, grew up in wisdom before God and men. The Church of St. Joseph, which shares courtyard with the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is built on top of the house of the Holy Family. I wondered why this Church located on the old home of the Holy Family was not called Holy Family Church. But I did find a Holy Family Church in Jerusalem, located along the route of the Stations of the Cross, a Catholic Church with Austrian leadership.
Through the lives of the members of the Holy Family, we could see that they lived ordinary daily lives. They didn't do anything spectacular which explains the statement: "Isn't he the son of Joseph, the carpenter?" The Holy Family lived in faith and simplicity. As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, let us pray that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes, so we could recognize the presence of our God in ordinary people and events in our daily lives.
Also, that the Holy Spirit would help us connect the Gospels to our ordinary life with all its trials, worries and problems; and, how God calls us to holiness through these struggles in life. Let us heed the call of Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World”. Holiness is for everyone! Let us also pray for parents to provide needed care to members of their families and for all families to be always united in the Lord despite all earthly challenges.